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Tue 23 Dec 2008 12:36 PM

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Gulf states set for monetary council in '09

GCC secretary-general says Gulf on track despite setbacks that have dogged project.

Gulf Arab states are poised to launch a common monetary council, the precursor to a regional central bank in 2009, the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council said in remarks published on Tuesday.

"We look forward to set up the monetary council of the Gulf Cooperation states next year," GCC Secretary-General Abdul-Rahman al-Attiyah told Al-Hayat newspaper.

The GCC - a loose political and economic alliance that comprises of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - launched monetary union plans in 2001 but setbacks have since dogged the project.

Oman has opted out of the planned monetary union.

Leaders of the oil-producing nations are expected to approve a monetary union agreement and a monetary council charter when they meet in Oman later this month.

The GCC plans to have a joint Gulf Arab central bank that will be independent from the governments of its member countries.

The joint central bank would be preceded by a joint monetary council to help the transition, although the draft did not give a specific timeframe for how long the transition phase might take.

The unified monetary authority cannot be established until the five countries taking part have all ratified the agreement.

In September, GCC finance ministers approved the framework for their monetary union but left questions over the timing of the launch of the single currency unanswered.

Attiyah maintained that the single currency would be launched in 2010, a deadline several member states doubt would be possible to meet.

"There has not been up any postponement up to now," he said.